Search Images Maps Play YouTube News Gmail Drive More »
Sign in
Screen reader users: click this link for accessible mode. Accessible mode has the same essential features but works better with your reader.

Patents

  1. Advanced Patent Search
Publication numberUS4788730 A
Publication typeGrant
Application numberUS 07/127,776
Publication dateDec 6, 1988
Filing dateDec 2, 1987
Priority dateDec 2, 1987
Fee statusLapsed
Publication number07127776, 127776, US 4788730 A, US 4788730A, US-A-4788730, US4788730 A, US4788730A
InventorsRobert A. Bexton
Original AssigneeBexton Robert A
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Gel-filled, variably-adjustable cushioning system for supporting a person
US 4788730 A
Abstract
A cushioning device, which can be a mattress, mattress pad or seat for supporting a person by distributing force over a support area of the person's body, comprises a gel-filled flexible enclosure with variably-adjustable supportive force distribution to prevent pressure points and resultant decubitus ulcers (bed sores) in patients and others who must spend long periods of time in prone or seated positions. The flexible enclosure has flexible barriers which divide the enclosure into multiple gel-containing compartments each underlying a different portion of the supportive surface of the device and preventing the transfer of gel from one compartment to another. Selectively openable and closable ports each communicate between the interior of a respective compartment and the exterior of the enclosure for enabling the infusion or extraction of gel from a particular compartment so as to variably adjust the distribution of supportive force. One or more gel containers, separate from the flexible enclosure, matingly couple with the respective ports for delivering gel to or receiving gel from the respective compartments.
Images(2)
Previous page
Next page
Claims(3)
What is claimed is:
1. A cushioning device for supporting a person's weight by distributing force over a support area of the person's body in a variably-adjustable manner to prevent pressure concentration points in predetermined portions of said support area, said cushioning device comprising:
(a) a flexible enclosure assembly for containing a flowable gel, said enclosure assembly having a major flexible surface for distributing supportive force over a support area of a person's body; compartments, each underlying a different portion of said major flexible surface, and preventing the transfer of said gel within said enclosure from one of said compartments to another;
(b) means defining a plurality of selectively openable and closable ports, each communicating between the interior of a respective one of said compartments and the exterior of said enclosure, for enabling the flow of said gel into and out of the respective interiors of said compartments; and
(c) gel container means, having means defining an aperture for mating and sealingly coupling with said ports, for selectively delivering said gel to or receiving said gel from the respective interiors of said compartments so as to variably adjust the distribution of said supportive force, said gel container means including means for forcing said gel to flow through said aperture and ports into the respective interiors of said compartments wherein each of said ports includes one-way check valve means for normally permitting said gel to flow through the respective port into the interior of a respective compartment while normally preventing said gel to flow through the respective port out of the interior of the respective compartment, and means associated with said aperture of said gel container means for selectively engaging and opening said one-way check valve means so as to permit said gel to flow through the respective port out of the interior of the respective compartment.
2. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein said gel container means is of a variable volume type having movable containment walls for selectively decreasing or expanding its gel-containing volume.
3. The apparatus of claim 2 wherein said gel container means has flexibly movable containment walls.
Description
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

This invention relates to cushioning pads, mattresses, and seats for supporting patients and others who must spend long periods in prone or seated positions. More particularly, the invention relates to a system for variably adjusting the distribution of supporting force imposed over a support area of a person's body by a gel-filled cushioning device so as to reduce the incidence of decubitus ulcers (bed sores).

A substantial number of mattresses and mattress pads have been developed in the past having as their objective the reduction of the incidence of decubitus ulcers in patients and others who must spend long periods in bed. These prior devices comprise flexible enclosures containing various cushioning materials such as air, liquid, gel, foam or granular materials as disclosed, for example, in U.S. Pat. Nos. 4,163,297, 4,454,615 and 4,628,557. Cushioning devices of the type shown in U.S. Pat. Nos. 4,163,297 and 4,628,557 further include a plurality of small pillow-like elements or inserts to permit the support surface configuration to be varied by the addition or removal of the pillow elements or inserts as the case may be, thereby enabling some adjustability of the distribution of the supportive force over the person's body. However, only adjustability in relatively large increments is provided by the addition or subtraction of such pillow elements or inserts, providing only a gross approximation of the optimum distribution of supporting force required by any particular patient depending on his individual weight, body shape, and posture required by his particular medical condition.

In an attempt to meet the need for a finer, more infinite variability in the adjustment of cushioning devices for patients, mattresses have been proposed having separate internal cells which are selectively inflatable and deflatable by connection with a set of patient-operated or automatically-operated valves which alternatively supply pressurized air to, or exhaust air from, the individual cells. While such a system provides infinitely-adjustable variability, as opposed to variability by gross increments, valving and controls therefor make the system expensive. More important, such a system of inflation and deflation is practical only if employed with an air-filled mattress where the individual compartments can thus be easily filled from, and exhausted into, the surrounding air. Unfortunately, air-filled mattresses do not produce the lowest skin-surface pressures. Rather, the lowest skin-surface pressures are obtained using a gel as the cushioning material, as taught, for example, by Berjian, et al., "Skin Pressure Measurements On Various Mattress Surfaces In Cancer Patients," 62 American Journal of Physical Medicine 217 (1983).

Accordingly, what is needed is a gel-containing cushioning device having separate compartments selectively capable of receiving or exhausting gel in infinitely variable increments to obtain infinitely variable adjustability of the distribution of supporting force on a person's body, together with an inexpensive external system for selectively receiving or delivering the gel as needed.

SUMMARY OF THE PRESENT INVENTION

The present invention satisfies the foregoing need by providing a cushioning device, such as a mattress, mattress pad, seat cushion, or the like, in the form of a flexible enclosure having multiple, flexible, gel-containing compartments structurally interconnected with one another for containing a flowable gel, each underlying a different portion of a major supporting surface for supporting a person's body. A plurality of selectively openable and closable ports, each communicating between the interior of a respective compartment and the exterior thereof, enable the flow of gel into and out of the respective compartments. An exterior gel container, separate from the compartments, has an aperture for matingly and sealingly coupling with the ports so that it can selectively deliver gel to or receive gel from each of the compartments to variably adjust the distribution of supportive force exerted by the major supporting surface against the user's body. In this way the exterior gel container becomes a highly portable and easily handled accessory to the cushioning device, serving as a convenient reservoir into which excess gel may be exhausted from a particular compartment underlying a portion of the supporting surface where pressure is to be reduced, or as a reservoir from which additional gel may be injected into a compartment underlying a portion of the supporting surface where pressure is to be increased to compensate for decreased pressure elsewhere. The gel container also includes means for forcing the gel to flow into the respective compartments, which could conceivably be a pump but, for greater economy, preferably constitutes merely a variable-volume feature of the gel container itself. Preferably, flexibly movable containment walls may be folded or rolled to decrease the volume of the gel container and thereby force the flowable gel into a respective compartment.

The ports by which gel is injected into or exhausted from each compartment preferably include one-way checkvalves which permit the gel to flow into the compartment but prevent its exhaust therefrom unless mechanically opened by engagement with a valve-opening member associated with the gel container. Thus spillage of the flowable gel, in the process of injecting or exhausting it through the ports, is prevented.

It is therefore a principal objective of the invention to provide an inexpensive cushioning device which enables gel-containing flexible compartments to be employed compatibly with an infinitely-variable system for adjusting the distribution of supporting force provided by the cushioning device against the body of the user.

It is a further objective of the invention to provide a corresponding method for providing such gel-containing cushioning consistent with such infinitely variable adjustability of force distribution.

The foregoing and other objectives, features, and advantages of the invention will be more readily understood upon consideration of the following detailed description of the invention, taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a top view of an exemplary embodiment of a mattress pad constructed in accordance with the present invention, with such pad joined at one edge to a second pad shown partially.

FIG. 2 is an enlarged sectional view taken along line 2--2 of FIG. 1 showing a junction separating respective gel-containing compartments.

FIG. 3 is an enlarged sectional view taken along line 3--3 of FIG. 1, showing the joinder of the pair of pads.

FIG. 4 is an enlarged view taken along line 4--4 of FIG. 1, showing a front view of an exemplary port by which a flowable gel may be injected into, or extracted from, a compartment of the pad.

FIG. 5 is a sectional view of the port taken along line 5--5 of FIG. 4.

FIG. 6 is a top view of an exemplary exterior gel container usable in conjunction with the mattress pad of FIG. 1.

FIG. 7 is a sectional view of the port of FIG. 4 showing its operative coupling with the exterior gel container of FIG. 6.

DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

With reference to FIG. 1, an exemplary mattress pad indicated generally as 10 comprises a series of flexible compartments 20a, 20b, 20c and 20d encapsulating a gel. The mattress pad may be of single-bed width and length for use alone on a single bed or, in conjunction with a second mating gel-filled mattress pad 10a of similar construction, for use on a king-size bed. Alternatively, the pad 10 could be of one-half double bed width or one-half queen bed width and equal to full bed length. Straps such as 12 secure the corners of the pad around the bottoms of the underlying corners of a conventional mattress, the straps such as 12a at the juncture of the two pads simply lying loose if not needed.

The top flexible panel 14 of the pad 10, composed of the flexible tops of the compartments 20a, 20b, 20c and 20d together with the flexible compartment sidewalls 15, is preferably constructed of light, heat-formed vinyl approximately 0.02 inches thick coated on its exterior with a fabric or foam rubber, although other fluid-impervious flexible materials can also be used. The top panel 14 comprises the major supporting surface for distributing force over a support area of the user's body. A bottom panel 16 of the same or similar material, but somewhat thicker (e.g. 0.025 inches thick), is glued or welded to margins 15a at the bottoms of the sidewalls 15 in a fluid-impervious manner. Separating the compartments 20a, 20b, 20c and 20d are a series of interior compartment sidewalls 15 welded or glued in a fluid-impervious manner to the bottom panel 16 along junctions 18 (FIGS. 1 and 2). Thus, each of the compartments 20a, 20b, 20c and 20d, respectively, underlies a different portion of the major flexible surface 14 of the pad 10 and is isolated by the interior sidewalls 15 from any other compartment. This prevents the transfer of gel portions, such as 22c and 22d, respectively (FIG. 2), from one compartment to another. With reference to FIGS. 1 and 3, pads such as 10 and 10a may be joined together by mating hook and loop type fasteners, such as the ones sold under the trademark Velcro, strips 24a, 24b affixed to the respective pads, or by any other suitable means. Additional mating hook and loop type fasteners, such as the ones sold under the trademark Velcro, strips 24c and 24d may optionally be provided so that all pads such as 10 and 10a may be of identical construction and yet always be capable of joinder. Each compartment has a respective selectively openable and closable port 26a, 26b, 26c or 26d mounted therein through which the gel can be selectively injected into or extracted from the respective compartments separately. To enable the effective use of the ports, the gel employed is a stable, flowable gel of any suitable known type, such as a mixture of methyl cellulose, water, preservative, coloring and bittering agent or, alternatively, a silicone gel. With reference to FIG. 5, each port preferably comprises a body 27 glued between the sidewall margin 15a and the bottom panel 16, although mounting of the ports in the sidewalls or bottom panel themselves is permissible. Each port body 27 has a threaded aperture 28 therein into which a sealing plug 30 may be screwed when the port is not in use. On the inside of the port body 27, a one-way checkvalve in the form of a flattened soft vinyl or rubber tube 32 is attached, such tube normally assuming the collapsed condition shown in FIGS. 4 and 5 which prevents gel from escaping through the port from inside the compartment when the plug 30 is removed.

FIG. 6 shows an exemplary flexible vinyl gel container bottle 34 having a threaded spout 36 sealed by a threaded cap 38. With reference to FIG. 7, when the cap 38 is removed preparatory to use of the gel container 34, the cap may be replaced by an internally and externally-threaded nozzle 40 which screws onto the spout 36 and is in turn screwed into the port body 27 after the plug 30 has been removed. The nozzle 40 has sufficient length that its end 40a forces the sides of the normally collapsed tube 32 apart so as to permit the flow of gel through the port. Thus, if it is desired to extract gel from a particular compartment to lessen the supportive force applied to the user's body by the portion of the flexible supporting surface 14 overlying the compartment, pressure is applied externally to the top of the compartment thereby forcing gel from the compartment through the nozzle 40 into the external gel container 34. When sufficient gel has been extracted from the compartment, the nozzle 40 is unscrewed from the port body 27 and, as it is withdrawn, the checkvalve tube 32 automatically recloses to prevent any spillage. Thereafter the plug 30 may be reinserted in the port. Alternatively, if it is desired to add gel to the compartment to increase its share of the supportive force, the gel container 34 is connected to the port as shown in FIG. 7 and its volume gradually decreased by squeezing, folding or rolling its flexible containment walls so as to force gel through the nozzle 40 into the compartment. After the desired amount of gel has been added, the nozzle is withdrawn in the manner previously described and the plug 30 reinserted in the port.

In the foregoing manner gel may be transferred from one compartment to another, but only in a controlled, external manner rather than in an uncontrolled, internal manner, and without necessarily preserving a constant mass of gel within the pad 10. In this way the distribution of supporting force against the user's body may be adjusted in an infinitely variable, controlled manner to suit each user's individual needs.

It is also within the scope of the invention to equip the pad 10 with an electrically heated subpad, or with a cooled subpad, for heating or cooling the entire unit. Alternatively, if separate heating or cooling subpads such as 42a, 42b (FIG. 2) or other separate internal or external heaters or coolers are provided for the separate compartments, heating or cooling of selected compartments individually for the treatment of localized arthritic conditions or injuries is possible.

The terms and expressions which have been employed in the foregoing specification are used therein as terms of description and not of limitation, and there is no intention, in the use of such terms and expressions, of excluding equivalents of the features shown and described or portions thereof, it being recognized that the scope of the invention is defined and limited only by the claims which follow.

Patent Citations
Cited PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US2372218 *Jul 25, 1941Mar 27, 1945Manson Frank GPneumatic mattress
US2700165 *Jan 22, 1949Jan 25, 1955Samuel C TalismanTreating valve for pillows or the like
US3583008 *Feb 26, 1969Jun 8, 1971Robert J EdwardsCompartmented bag having selective inflation controls
US4067078 *Jun 10, 1976Jan 10, 1978Winston Emanuel AAdjustable back supporter
US4163297 *Jul 6, 1977Aug 7, 1979Beaufort Air Sea Equipment LimitedMattress
US4306322 *Nov 14, 1979Dec 22, 1981Dial-A-Firm, Inc.Pneumatic bed assembly
US4454615 *May 3, 1982Jun 19, 1984Medisearch Pr, Inc.Air pad with integral securement straps
US4621383 *Feb 7, 1985Nov 11, 1986Christopher GendalaMethod and apparatus for inflating an article
US4628557 *Sep 14, 1984Dec 16, 1986Lutheran Hospital Foundation, Inc.Adjustable hospital mattress with removable inserts
GB1302522A * Title not available
GB1463672A * Title not available
Non-Patent Citations
Reference
1Richard A. Berjian et al "Skin Pressure Measurements on Various Mattress Surfaces in Cancer Patients" 62 American Journal of Physical Medicine 217 (1983).
2 *Richard A. Berjian et al Skin Pressure Measurements on Various Mattress Surfaces in Cancer Patients 62 American Journal of Physical Medicine 217 (1983).
Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US5022110 *Apr 17, 1989Jun 11, 1991Kinetic Concepts, Inc.Low air loss mattress
US5070559 *Jan 8, 1991Dec 10, 1991New Era Marketing, Ltd.Adjustable spinal support
US5142720 *Jul 22, 1991Sep 1, 1992Kansas Creative Device, Inc.Positioning device and method
US5182825 *Feb 20, 1991Feb 2, 1993D. Ray StinsonWaterbed
US5388295 *Aug 26, 1993Feb 14, 1995Sarkozi; JeffAdjustable seat and back support pad, and mattress
US5394577 *Mar 29, 1993Mar 7, 1995James; Ingrid B.Therapeutic anti-decubitus, lateral rotation mattress
US5513899 *Sep 29, 1993May 7, 1996Invacare CorporationSeat cushion for wheelchairs
US5636395 *Feb 6, 1995Jun 10, 1997Serda; Jarrett F. M.Mattress pad with gel filled chambers coupled to a foam cushion
US5678266 *Sep 8, 1995Oct 21, 1997P & K Products, IncorporatedMethod and apparatus for supporting various parts of a person's body
US5680662 *Sep 9, 1996Oct 28, 1997Veritas Enterprises, Inc.Cushioning mattress for reducing shear and friction
US5689845 *Apr 17, 1996Nov 25, 1997Roho, Inc.Expansible air cell cushion
US5893184 *May 1, 1998Apr 13, 1999Comfortex Health Care SurfacesPressure reducing backrest cushion with selective pressure point relief
US6010528 *Aug 30, 1996Jan 4, 2000Augustine Medical, Inc.Support apparatus which cradles a body portion for application of localized cooling to high contact-pressure body surface areas
US6092249 *May 27, 1997Jul 25, 2000Deka Products Limited PartnershipConstant pressure seating system
US6123716 *Oct 21, 1999Sep 26, 2000Augustine Medical, Inc.Support apparatus which cradles a body portion for application of localized cooling to high contact-pressure body surface areas
US6209159 *Jan 10, 1997Apr 3, 2001Comfortex Health Care SurfacesPressure reducing cushion with selective pressure point relief
US6210427 *Dec 28, 1999Apr 3, 2001Augustine Medical, Inc.Support apparatus with a plurality of thermal zones providing localized cooling
US6224623 *Jul 14, 2000May 1, 2001Augustine Medical, Inc.Support apparatus which cradles a body portion for application of localized cooling to high contact-pressure body surface areas
US6269504May 6, 1999Aug 7, 2001Hill-Rom Services, Inc.Mattress or cushion structure
US6478685 *Oct 13, 1999Nov 12, 2002Oriental Sangyo, Ltd.Amusement system
US6497720 *Jan 10, 2001Dec 24, 2002Augustine Medical, Inc.Support apparatus with a plurality of thermal zones providing localized cooling
US6598251Jun 15, 2001Jul 29, 2003Hon Technology Inc.Body support system
US6681427Jun 18, 2002Jan 27, 2004Anderson Bio-Bed, IncorporatedApparatus for imparting continuous motion to a mattress
US6687933 *Jun 14, 2002Feb 10, 2004Hon Technology, Inc.Body support system with energy dissipation means
US6687934 *Aug 8, 2002Feb 10, 2004Tsun-Chi LiaoSeat cushion structure
US6701556Aug 2, 2001Mar 9, 2004Hill-Rom Services, Inc.Mattress or cushion structure
US6901617 *Apr 29, 2003Jun 7, 2005Roho, Inc.Multi-layer cushion and cover
US7024714Apr 21, 2005Apr 11, 2006Yates Paul MCelled seat cushion
US7036162 *Sep 10, 2003May 2, 2006Gatten Kenneth WCooling mattress for sunbathing
US7146664Jul 19, 2004Dec 12, 2006Grosvenor Eugene MPneumatic surgical prone head support and system
US7191480Mar 5, 2004Mar 20, 2007Hill-Rom Services, Inc.Mattress or cushion structure
US7191482Mar 15, 2004Mar 20, 2007Hill Rom Services, Inc.Patient support
US7278179Oct 22, 2003Oct 9, 2007Tcam Technologies Inc.Inflatable decubitis mat with vent structures controlled by heat sensors
US7461894Nov 20, 2006Dec 9, 2008Nightgear LlcSeating accessory
US7480953Mar 20, 2007Jan 27, 2009Hill-Rom Services, Inc.Patient support
US7536740Apr 12, 2008May 26, 2009Swartz Jann EResting mattress
US7540847Jan 16, 2004Jun 2, 2009Klein Charles WApparatus and method for selectively transmitting vibrations to an individual situated on a support surface
US7587772 *Oct 7, 2005Sep 15, 2009Ward DeborahInfant nesting device
US7617555Jan 26, 2009Nov 17, 2009Hill-Rom Services, Inc.Patient support surface
US7731282Oct 14, 2008Jun 8, 2010Nightgear LlcSeating accessory
US7731283Jan 26, 2009Jun 8, 2010Nightgear LlcSeating accessory
US7789461Jan 20, 2009Sep 7, 2010Nightgear LlcSeating accessory
US7966680Nov 16, 2009Jun 28, 2011Hill-Rom Services, Inc.Patient support surface
US8011045Jun 6, 2007Sep 6, 2011Allen Medical Systems, Inc.Localized patient support
US8264342 *Oct 27, 2009Sep 11, 2012RF Surgical Systems, IncMethod and apparatus to detect transponder tagged objects, for example during medical procedures
US8281434Jul 27, 2011Oct 9, 2012Allen Medical Systems, Inc.Localized patient support
US8342603Mar 2, 2011Jan 1, 2013Nightgear LlcSeat assembly
US8549684Mar 25, 2009Oct 8, 2013Stryker CorporationGelastic material having variable or same hardness and balanced, independent buckling in a mattress system
US8590075 *Jun 9, 2010Nov 26, 2013Ibrahim H. AmjadMattress assembly for newborn infants
US8601620May 13, 2011Dec 10, 2013Hill-Rom Services, Inc.Cover system for a patient support surface
US8607387Aug 19, 2010Dec 17, 2013Stryker CorporationMulti-walled gelastic mattress system
US8635725Oct 28, 2009Jan 28, 2014Tony Y. TannouryProne and laterally angled surgical device and method
US20100109848 *Oct 27, 2009May 6, 2010Blair William AMethod and apparatus to detect transponder tagged objects, for example during medical procedures
US20110083269 *Nov 17, 2010Apr 14, 2011Glass Leonard WCover for deflatable support cushions
DE10001798A1 *Jan 18, 2000Sep 13, 2001Burth Ann CathrinMattress for normal bed frame has sheath filled with granules and slip-additive and support surface.
EP1522237A1 *Jun 25, 2003Apr 13, 2005Shimizu Synthetic Office, Ltd.Mat
WO1997000163A1 *May 14, 1996Jan 3, 1997Minnesota Mining & MfgMethod for manufacturing solid elastomeric gels
WO1998030133A1 *Jan 12, 1998Jul 16, 1998Comfortex Health Care SurfacesPressure reducing cushion with selective pressure point relief
WO2003094666A2 *Apr 29, 2003Nov 20, 2003Roho IncMulti-layer cushion and cover
Classifications
U.S. Classification5/676, 5/723, 5/922, 5/909, 5/685, 5/654
International ClassificationA47C27/08, A61G7/057, A61G5/10, A47C27/10
Cooperative ClassificationY10S5/922, Y10S5/909, A61G2005/1045, A61G5/1043, A61G7/05715, A61G7/05738
European ClassificationA61G7/057C, A61G5/10E, A61G7/057G
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
Feb 6, 2001FPExpired due to failure to pay maintenance fee
Effective date: 20001206
Dec 3, 2000LAPSLapse for failure to pay maintenance fees
Jun 27, 2000REMIMaintenance fee reminder mailed
Dec 5, 1996FPAYFee payment
Year of fee payment: 8
Dec 5, 1996SULPSurcharge for late payment
Jul 16, 1996REMIMaintenance fee reminder mailed
May 4, 1992FPAYFee payment
Year of fee payment: 4
Mar 27, 1990CCCertificate of correction